US President Barack Obama on Friday finally congratulated president-elect Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto following their election victory on March 4.
President Obama’s personal message, delivered to Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto at their makeshift offices at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi by US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec, indicates that America will be willing to work with the two leaders despite the charges of crimes against humanity facing them before the International Criminal Court.
The US joined other world powers to officially recognise President-elect Kenyatta and Deputy President-elect Ruto who will be sworn into office next Tuesday. Others are Britain, France, Germany and the EU.
China was the first major power to recognise Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto, sending a congratulatory message even as presidential petitions challenging their election were headed to the Supreme Court.
The court upheld their election in its judgment on March 9.
On Friday, the Presidential Press Services released a statement quoting President Obama as saying the election and the peaceful adjudication of dispute were testaments to the progress Kenya has made in strengthening its democratic institutions.
“Now that your election has been confirmed, you have the opportunity to build on the promise of Kenya’s Constitution and solidify its place as a vibrant and prosperous democracy centered on the rule of law,” President Obama said.
President Obama said since Kenya’s independence in 1963, the United States and Kenya have been strong partners united by a shared commitment to democracy, security and opportunity.
“Together we have faced many problems and solved many challenges and our cooperation has benefitted both of our peoples” he added.
During the meeting with Mr Godec, President-elect Kenyatta said Kenya regarded the US as a valuable development partner and ally in addressing regional challenges especially terrorism, insecurity, money laundering and piracy.
The President-elect said he looked forward to strengthening ties and cooperation between Kenya and the US for the mutual benefit of the two countries.
Mr Kenyatta expressed his government’s commitment to nurturing a philosophy of constructive engagements in which diplomatic contacts would be between the democratically elected leaders.
He further emphasised that his government looked forward to continued cooperation with the US and the international community in general in the consolidation of peace in Somalia in order to ensure the country does not become a breeding and training ground for terrorists who pose a security threat to Kenya, the region and the world at large.
President-elect Kenyatta said his immediate priority was to unite Kenyans and expressed the hope that the US and other development partners would support his government.
In attendance during the talks were outgoing Foreign Affairs Minister Prof Sam Ongeri, Permanent Secretaries Thuita Mwangi and Mutea Iringo among senior government officials.
President Obama’s personal congratulatory message follows an earlier a statement signed by White House press secretary Jay Carney “on behalf of the President and the people of the United States” and released soon after the Supreme Court judgment.
“We congratulate Uhuru Kenyatta on his election as president of Kenya. We also congratulate the people of Kenya on the peaceful conduct of the election and commend Raila Odinga for accepting the Supreme Court’s decision,” Mr Carney said in a statement.
“We urge all Kenyans to peacefully accept the results of the election. The electoral process and the peaceful adjudication of disputes in the Kenyan legal system are testaments to the progress Kenya has made in strengthening its democratic institutions, and the desire of the Kenyan people to move their country forward.”
However, Mr Carney expressed hopes that the two leaders who face charges against crimes of humanity arising from the 2007/2008 post election violence will cooperate with the international criminal court.
“Kenya is an important member of the international community. We welcome and wish to underscore the importance of Kenya’s commitment to uphold its international obligations, including those with respect to international justice,” he said.